For the average layman, the life of a P.O.W. was difficult to
conceive. People have obviously different perceptions as to what awaits
the serviceman who finds himself in the hands of the enemy. Certain countries
treat prisoners in various ways, as in Germany, some camps have different
living conditions. The particular camp that Sgt. Gaulette and myself were
sent to was one that should be of most interest to the reader of this prologue,
because of the following reasons.
1. It was the largest P.O.W. camp in Germany.
2. It had a notorious reputation among prisoners.
3. The camp was situated in an area that made escape difficult. Although
this did not stop the P.O.Ws from trying. However, many of these men in
their attempts to reach England failed, and were shot on sight.
A RECORD OF THE RAID ON MUNICH. DECEMBER 21st.
On the above date, we, the crew of..( Deleted ) took off from an
aerodrome in East Anglia to bomb the Nazi headquarters at Munich, Bavaria.
The trip to Germany was uneventful. On our first run-up over the target
we were hit by flak and our starboard engine caught fire, but was extinguished
by the crew. We dropped our bombs and began the dangerous return trip to
England on three engines.
Shortly there-after we were attacked by an ME.110. After a battle
with the attacking fighter, we eventually caught fire and the whole starboard
wing was ablaze. The order to "bale out" was given. The bombardier left
the Aircraft first, followed by the engineer and then myself at approximately
700 ft. Fortunately I landed in a tree thus breaking my fall. After considerable
difficulty I managed to free myself and reached the ground minus parachute.
I set off for the Bavarian Alps, which were visible from where I was. However
I was captured by a civilian policeman after fifteen minutes of freedom.
The following is Sgt. Goulette's account of the raid told to a third party after the war.
They, referring to the crew of the Lancaster, 44th Squadron,
were half an hour late in starting owing to their having to go in a different
plane at the last minute and so when they reached Munich they were the
last to go in and every available searchlight and gun was concentrated
on them. They were hit over the target and one engine set on fire but they
managed to put the fire out but had to come home on three engines which
of course meant that the plane was much less maneuverable and was an easy
target for fighters. As they neared Heidelburg they were attacked by an
M.E. 110 and there was a running fight for 3/4 of an hour Then it broke
off but unfortunately it came in again from underneath their blind spot
and raked them with its guns from end to end setting the starboard wing
on fire. Then the pilot gave the order to abandon aircraft. They were by
then down to 1000 ft. Sgt. Goulette went first, then Sgt. Imrie (but unfortunately
his parachute did not open) and he was killed, and then Sgt. Sanders. So
they were the only three who managed to get out. Sgt. Goulette landed in
a field an saw the plane go down. Just above the tree tops it flattened
out as though the pilot was going to make a crash landing but on hitting
the ground it blew up. He and Sgt. Sanders, who had landed near a different
village, met the German pilot who had shot them down, in the Burgomaster's
office, and he congratulated them on the splendid fight they had put up.
When they told him they had been flying on three engines he could hardly
believe it and said they ought to be flying for the Luftwaffe instead of
A special thanks to C.B. for this information.
Information received from B. Kettle (Volunteer - Ministry
21/22 December 1942 Operation : Munich Your dads plane..... 44Sqn Lancaster I W4125
KM-Q T/o 1802 Waddington. Crashed 2 km N of Bad Rappeneau, 15 km NNW
of Heilbronn, Germany. Those who died are buried in Durnbach War Cemetery.
Operation: Munich 137 aircraft of 1 and 5 Groups and the Pathfinder Force - 119 Lancasters,
9 Stirlings, 9 Wellingtons. 12 aircraft - 8 Lancasters,
3 Stirlings, 1 Wellington were lost, 8.8% of the force. 110 aircraft claimed to have bombed Munich and started fires but
their photographs showed that all or most of the bombs fell in open country, possible attracted by a decoy site.
Details of your father receiving his DFC appears in the London Gazette
on 17 January 1941. Thank you Bruce for this information
The fate of the crew
The fate of the other members of the crew was told to me by
the Luftwaffe authorities in the village of Rappenau, where I was taken.
The engineer was found dead with his parachute, which had failed to open.
The bombardier was captured in the adjoining village of Babstadt with a
bullet in his arm. (Sergeant Jimmy Goulette) The rest of the crew went
down with the Aircraft which blew up after hitting the ground. All the
crew in the Aircraft were killed and finally buried with full Military
honors at Rappenau. Sergeant Goulette and myself were taken to Mannheim,
Frankfurt and finally began our lives as Prisoners-of-war at Stalag V111B,
Upper Silesia, Eastern Germany. From Rappenau where Jimmy Goulette, and
myself were brought together, we were taken from the inquisitive country
folk of that peaceful village to Mannheim by train to a permanent Luftwaffe
camp on the outskirts of the city. We were escorted by two Luftwaffe guards
who took good care that we didn't try to escape. Jimmy however, was in
no condition to attempt a break, because of a bullet wound in his left
arm. He was in great pain and weak from loss of blood. After a hazardous
train journey through Mannheim, we arrived at the German Air Force camp
and there Jimmy was sent to hospital and I to the guard room. During our
stay there we were well treated by the guards and indeed all the time we
were in the hands of the Luftwaffe we could have wished for no better treatment.
From Mannheim were taken to Frankfurt to the well known propaganda camp
of Dulogluft. That was the receiving depot for most Air Force prisoners.
On arrival at Dulagluft, Jim was taken to hospital and I with others were
put in what is commonly known as the "Cooler" or "Bunker". The cooler is
a small two by four room furnished with a wooden bed, one table and one
chair. Here I spent five days including Christmas, waiting to be interrogated.
The food consisted of two slices of black bread and a cup of mint tea in
the morning. A bowl of soup and potatoes for lunch and the bread and salty
coffee for supper. Some less fortunate than myself have spent anything
up to 21 days in these miserable quarters.
It is here where the first pangs of hunger and craving for a smoke
are brought home to the usually well fed men of the R.A.F. The cooler however
has proved to be an ingenious device to the German Authorities to make
men "Talk". The idea is very simple, a man put in solitary for a few days
is apt to talk incessantly to anyone who will listen to him and the Germans
were always eager to "Listen". Once out of the cooler we were taken to
the main camp, where we met numerous chaps, some who had been captured
in the Middle East and others like myself shot down over Germany itself.
New years eve 1942
New Years Eve in the main camp of Dulagluft was quite a festive
occasion. In fact if P.O.W. life was to be judged by it, the future looked
pretty rosy. There was plenty of food and drink also a dance band etc.
One particular song, composed by a fleet air arm chap was very popular
and very appropriately was called "It won't be long now." I shouldn't be
surprised if it becomes a hit tune. The day finally came for our removal
to a permanent camp. January 1943 we set off for Stalag V111 B. A monotonous
journey lasting days, finally brought us to "Lammsdorf" station where the
whole 74 of us marched to camp. A striking scene, I thought, snow glistened
in the moonlight and covered the landscape. with our faces muffled against
the cold and the "crunch" of marching feet, we were a grim bunch, entering
a new world. Shortly a large forbidding looking camp loomed up before us.
It was not unlike a large fort as one would see on a frontier post. However,
the difference was obvious. A large Nazi swastika was hung at the mast
head and the whole place was lit with powerful searchlights. Green uniformed
German guards, who were to be our personal "Jailers" for the duration,
opened the main gates and we entered. A new life began for all of us.